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Zoology (Jena). 2010 Jan;113(1):47-56. doi: 10.1016/j.zool.2009.05.003. Epub 2010 Jan 8.

Flight dynamics of Cory's shearwater foraging in a coastal environment.

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Institute of Marine Research (IMAR/CMA), Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal. <>


Flight dynamics theories are influenced by two major topics: how birds adapt their flight to cope with heterogeneous habitats, and whether birds plan to use the wind field or simply experience it. The aim of this study was to understand the flight dynamics of free-flying Cory's shearwaters in relation to the wind characteristics on the coastal upwelling region of continental Portugal. We deployed recently miniaturised devices-global positioning system loggers to collect precise and detailed information on birds' positions and motions. Prevalent winds were blowing from the north-east and adults used those winds by adjusting their flight directions mainly towards north-west and south-west, flying with cross and tail winds, respectively, and avoiding head winds. This is confirmation that Cory's shearwaters use a shear soaring flying strategy while exploiting the environment for food: adults foraged mainly with cross winds and their ground speed was not constant during all foraging trips as it changed dynamically as a result of the ocean surface shear winds. During travelling phases, ground speed was strongly influenced by the position of the bird with regard to the wind direction, as ground speed increased significantly with increasing tail wind component (TWC) values. Adults appear to choose foraging directions to exploit ambient wind, in order to improve shear soaring efficiency (cross winding) and exploit diurnal changes in tail wind strength to maximise commuting efficiency. We report, for the first time, precise ground speed values (GPS-derived data) and computed actual flight speed values (using TWC analysis) for Cory's shearwater.

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